Made on the Margins

For 15 years, the Dallas Video Fest has flickered on the fringe

Larry v. Lockney When the people of the West Texas community of Lockney decided to require mandatory drug testing for public school students, no one there thought anyone would kick up a fuss. In a tiny, tight-knit town where "everybody knows everybody," the majority wanted the tests, and the majority rules. Well, not quite. Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck's documentary tracks the battle that ensued when lanky, laconic farmer Larry Tannahill decided to stand up for the Bill of Rights and, more important, his boys. "The way I feel about it, it's telling my son I don't trust him, [that] I don't believe in him, and I believe in him with all my heart," Tannahill says. Tannahill's principled stand eventually leads to an alliance with the American Civil Liberties Union--and costs him his job and his home. It would have been easy for Birnbaum and Schermbeck to vilify the people of Lockney for trampling on civil liberties, but instead the filmmakers take an evenhanded approach. Yes, Lockney created a policy that was as misguided as it was well-intentioned, but the town also gave us people like Tannahill, who, the film suggests, is both a patriot and hero. Turns out there are worse places than Lockney to weigh the balance between freedom and public safety. (PW)

The Last Record Store Jeff Liles (an occasional Dallas Observer contributor) knows that any film about music has to at least get that part right, so he stacks the deck, showing live in-store performances by Daniel Johnston and James Hall and loading up the soundtrack with songs by such locals as Centro-matic and Hydroponic Sound System. And that's not all he gets right in The Last Record Store, showing at the fest as one of the Substance TV selections. This is only a 13-minute snippet of Liles' unfinished documentary about Bill Wisener and his store on Coit and Spring Valley, Bill's Records and Tapes, but it's more than long enough to prove that the store is as much about the people who walk through the door as the man who opens it every morning. One of the largest independent record stores in the country, Bill's attracts a variety of oddballs and record geeks, and by the end of this glimpse into Liles' work-in-progress, you get the feeling that everyone who shows up on screen deserves his own documentary. Maybe he'll get to that next. (ZC)

Late Nite Pleasure Sex--or something like it--is what binds together three short films in this compilation. Ladyporn , by Austin student filmmakers Maggie Carey and Elena Carr, is a documentary detailing their efforts to make a hard-core porn flick for women, followed by the movie itself. What do women want in porn? In this case, no cum shots, more foreplay and women on top. (Surprise!) The documentary half of the offering is the better of the two, as the students struggle to find normal people willing to bare all for the camera. "It's not about size; it's about personality," they tell the men. (Show of hands, who's heard that one before?) The resulting movie resembles a late-night offering from Cinemax, only one in which the camera actually pans down to where the action is. Hello, willy. There's plenty of willy--in plaster, not in the flesh--in My Legendary Girlfriend , Braden King's interview with confessed groupie Cynthia Plaster Caster, who memorializes various male rock stars' members in plaster castings. Is a mold of Jimi Hendrix's semi-erect penis, on display in an art gallery, really art? If you can get past the underlying silliness of the image and listen to Caster's explanation of how she wishes to memorialize musical artists whose work moved her, you might actually say the answer is "yes." Finally, there is Bryan Poyser's Pleasureland , a sort of soft-core anti-porn film. The short's unnamed star is a young man who wants nothing more than to be alone with a rented hard-core video for an evening wank, only every movie he rents ends up transmogrifying into a flesh-and-blood porn actress willing to service him as she would in the movie. Sounds sweet, except for the fact that after they do the deeds, the actresses, who remain plugged into a cable attached to their navels, disconnect, die and vanish, leaving our hero alone, frustrated and facing late charges for the missing rented videos. Pleasureland is well-acted and neither as silly nor as prurient as it sounds by the description, and the final image of the young man snared in his own web of TV cable may provide viewers a different perspective on the power and effect of porn. (PW)

The revolution was televised: Ernie Kovacs' rare TV work will be presented by wife and fellow performer Edie Adams.
The revolution was televised: Ernie Kovacs' rare TV work will be presented by wife and fellow performer Edie Adams.
A hole in the head, top: This is, we guess, a scene from Headcheese. Checking out, below: Rhys Ifans and David Schwimmer kill time in  Mike Figgis' Hotel.
A hole in the head, top: This is, we guess, a scene from Headcheese. Checking out, below: Rhys Ifans and David Schwimmer kill time in Mike Figgis' Hotel.

Details

May 16-19. Tickets, ranging from $65 for an all-fest pass including Video Association of Dallas membership to $10-$15 for single-day passes, are available at the door or at www.videofest.org. The opening-night film, Hotel, will screen at 7:30 p.m. May 15 at the Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Ave.
Dallas Theater Center Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.

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The Legend of Leigh Bowery Leigh Bowery, a statuesque Australian, lived his life as a work of art, bouncing from fashion design to performance art to music to club-owning to dance as his overactive imagination saw fit. While friends and biographers use Charles Atlas' biography to try to keep Bowery wrapped in enigma after his sudden death in 1994, Bowery's designs, especially his outrageous clothing, truly secure his immortality. He strove to make physical appearance into something transformable, wearing S&M-like masks and padding to enlarge and draw attention to neglected body parts such as the feet, belly and shoulders, and creating his own "cult of artifice" that only painter Lucian Freud, who used Bowery as a nude model, seemed to crack with his literally stripped-bare portraits. (SS)

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